The Secularization of Relations between Jews and Non-Jews: An Introduction


other areas connected to the Jewish educational system , too . In 1781 David Friedlaender , a member of the inner circle of Mendelssohn’s followers , established in Berlin a “ free school ” for needy children , in which he developed a curriculum that included selected secular subjects , mainly the study of the German language , alongside religious subject matter . Such schools , not all of which were intended only for the poor , were established afterwards in other major cities in Germany , and what was deemed radical at the end of the eighteenth century would become commonplace within a few short decades . Eventually , even schools of a distinctly conservative bent devoted a considerable part of their time and pedagogic effort to turning their pupils into cultured citizens in the “ external ” world . Fluency in the language of the majority was of cardinal importance in this process . And this , too , was attained as the result of effort in both directions . The absolutist state , that closely supervised public activity within its borders , demanded that Jewish communities use the local language both in writing and orally . In some German states , such as Baden in southwestern Germany , the Jews were required to adopt “ German” family names and to only use the official language of the state in public transactions . But this project of integration through language required prolonged , incessant effort . Throughout the nineteenth century , Jews continued to move into Germany , mainly westward from Eastern Europe , and everywhere the new immigrants spoke Yiddish and maintained the practices of their lands of origin . The complaint about their partial and faulty use of German became one of the most widespread anti-Semitic motifs . And those who were fluent in German were often accused of having a foreign tone or intonation in their speech , or that their use of German was artificial . Another aspect of the process of the Jews ’ drawing closer to their surroundings came to light at this point , too . As long as their total foreignness was an accepted fact , Jews could routinely maintain their unique character and live within their own closed communities . Many Christians were contemptuous of them , but the Jews had a legitimate place - albeit the very lowest - in Christian society . As soon as the principles of the majority society changed , and once ( at least in theory ) the separate corporate bodies were canceled and the absolutist states were established , soon to become national states - the “ Jewish question” arose with particular force . There was now no legitimate place for the Jews as a separate entity , and certainly not for their autonomous institutions . The claim of their being “ a state within a state ” became ever more frequent , and the demand for assimilation was manifest as the other side of their emancipation . The novelty in the idea of emancipation was , after all , that Jews could now be accepted as members of the modern state with equal rights and without waiving their ancient identity . Acceptance depending on the renunciation of one’s identity , by conversion for example , had always been open to them . Within the modern nation-state , however , the demand to forego a separate identity and to fully assimilate in the host society could only be resisted if Jews were to be considered a national minority . This , however , would only become a viable option towards the end of the nineteenth century , mainly in the multinational frameworks of the Habsburg Empire . During the course of that century , both Jews and non-Jews continued to regard Judaism as a religion and not a ”Volk , ” a “ confession ” and not a separate nationality . In fact , the only ones who regarded the Jews as a separate nationality , and not merely as a religion , were the anti-Semites . They saw the Jews as a foreign , intrusive element , not only and not especially because of their different religion , but ( in definitely modern terms ) because of their ethnic origins . As such they could never belong to the national society , which they had evidently adopted , or to the new national state , whose political aspirations they so often sought to express . The new political and social order not only provided a new opportunity for the inclusion of the Jews and their acceptance as full-fledged citizens , it also was responsible for a new

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